President Biden will ask Congress on Thursday to suspend the federal gas tax through September, a move that could shave off 18 cents per gallon to help consumers battling record prices at the pump, senior administration officials said.
The request to suspend the gas tax comes as Biden and Democrats are facing a tough midterm election season as Americans are confronting high fuel costs, spiking inflation and fears of a recession. It is not clear if Biden can persuade Republicans in the Senate to go along with the gas tax holiday. Republicans are not likely to support any Democratic gas tax holidays, arguing that such measures are political theater that will do little to make long-term dents in oil prices. They say the best way to reduce oil prices is to loosen regulations and increase U.S. oil production.
The national median gas price set a record last week, topping $5 per gallon, according to the American Automobile Assn., though it has since dropped below that mark. As of Monday, California had the highest average gas price of any state at $6.398 per gallon. The gas tax suspension would reduce the cost of a gallon of diesel fuel by 24 cents.
Biden plans to ask lawmakers to ensure the suspension doesn’t hurt the Highway Trust Fund, which is partially funded by the federal gas tax. The fund helps pay for transportation projects.
The president also will request that states temporarily suspend their fuel taxes or provide consumers with rebates, senior administration officials told reporters.
Gas prices dropped in 2020 when employees cut back on commuting and families limited their leisure travel in response to COVID-19 restrictions. In response, oil-producing countries cut back on supplies even as the pandemic was easing and people were returning to the office and hitting the road on vacations.
The price rose further when the U.S. and its allies imposed tough sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions have made it more difficult for Russia to sell its oil. Biden has also banned the import of Russian oil, and last month Europe announced it was imposing a partial embargo on it.
As of 2020, Russia was the world’s third-largest producer of petroleum, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The president and his party have sought to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for the rise in prices. They have also criticized oil companies for engaging in what they described as price gouging.
“The president has promised and remains committed to do everything he can to reduce the impact of that Putin price hike on the American people,” a senior administration official told reporters. “He believes that states, oil companies and retailers have a responsibility in this unique moment to do their part, to ameliorate the Putin price hike.”
Republicans, on the other hand, have been hammering Biden and his party over the state of the economy, with a sharp focus on inflation and the soaring price of gas. Voters have consistently cited concerns over the economy, inflation and gas prices as their top concerns heading into the November midterm elections.
“Joe Biden has failed to address any of the crises he created for the American people. From inflation, supply chain shortages, and higher gas across the country — Biden has failed,” the Republican National Committee tweeted on Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.